Ronald Fearnley walking into retirement
I was 16, when I first met Mr. Fearnley. It was just three months after starting my job as a trainee photographer with the Coventry Evening Telegraph (CET). I accompanied the chief photographer and a reporter, (two ageing professionals) to photograph and report on a very new Corporation Daimler bus, No. 178 parked up in Priory Sreet in November 1955. My two elderly superiors told me off for embarrassing them on the way back to the office, because I asked Mr. Fearnley what his favourite bus was and then dared to ask which of the old buses he liked. "You do not ask the General Manager of the Transport Department what is favourite thing is. You've got to grow up lad!" They told everyone back at the office, even the News Editor!
Mr. Fearnley did answer me though. "Oh these new buses of course". He then told me that an old single-decker bus No.146 (Daimler COG5 BHP 146) was a very nice bus too, but it had been sold some years ago. I then told him I knew of the bus because I had a picture of it. The Daimler Company had sent it to me because I was interested in the buses.
I believe Coventry was really lucky to have Mr. Fearnley as the Transport Manager & Chief Engineer; he was one of the great municipal managers of his time. He pioneered ideas in bus design that were still being used when he retired. It was his idea and specification to build a lightweight 60-seater bus within the regulation length and weight of a 55-seater bus. With extensive planning between the Daimler design team and Engineers and Bodybuilders, the completed lightweight buses were ahead of their time. The extra 5 seats became so valuable in a wartime boom with increased passengers numbers due to the great influx of war workers coming to the city.
Mr Fearnley was a thorough gentleman, highly respected by everyone; he knew all his employees and had a great interest in them. He was a tall and handsome man, impeccably dressed. In the colder weather he wore a deep blue or black overcoat, gloves and a bowler hat. He looked a very distinguished figure especially when standing at the bus stop in Harnall Lane. I had seen him there a few times and also in Broadgate, for he went home for lunch by bus almost every day. He first boarded the 14 Inner Circle bus just below the Harnall Lane head office then, in Stoney Stanton Road, transferred to a 21 bound for Broadgate. From there he caught the 17 Baginton Village bus to take him to Baginton Road. Jim Stokes who became General Manager at Coventry in West Midland PTE days told me about the time Mr. Fearnley was a little late returning from his lunch to catch the bus. The bus crew had waited in Leamington Road and the conductor had walked up to the junction of Baginton Road to look to see if the General Manager was coming. When he did get on the bus the crew were told off, politely, that it was more important to keep to their schedule than to have waited for him. Colin Holloway, a member of the CWK205 forum, who became the Assistant Overhaul Manager at Sandy Lane, would tell you that everything had to be 'just right' for Mr. Fearnley. (Editor's note: Colin Holloway is now also a member of the CCT Society.)
When I found old negatives in the old CET files, showing CCT buses, I would print them and, together with pictures I had taken myself of the new buses, I would take them to him. He was always very interested and grateful. Some of the photos were added to the CCT photograph albums and some have since been used in many publications on Coventry's history. I photographed Mr. Fearnley a few days before he retired in October 1962, walking away from a line-up of buses into retirement at Harnall Lane East depot. The picture appeared on the day of his retirement with a news piece in the CET. On the day of his retirement, Mr Fearnley signed the phototograph for me, together with a portrait of himself that had been taken by the CET in 1951. The two signed photographs have become so much a part of my CCT picture albums.
A few years later I was driving from Birdingbury Village toward Southam, in the course of my work, when I could see a figure through the window screen in the narrow lane ahead of me whom I instantly recognized as Mr. Fearnley. I stopped and offered him a lift. He told me he was taking an afternoon stroll to post a letter. We chatted for a while; he looked very well and of course was the very same smartly dressed Mr. Fearnley everyone knew.